Budget stalemate until after the elections?

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, April 8 - The Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-ND, said that, after the Easter recess, he plans to march ahead with long-promised plans to mark up a fiscal 2013 budget. But in an appearance on Fox News Sunday, he also said that Democrats and Republicans will not likely be able to agree on a budget resolution until after the November elections. 

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Asked by Fox Anchor Brit Hume whether or not Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would schedule floor time to consider a new budget, Conrad downplayed the possibility.

"I think Senator Reid has made the judgment, probably quite correctly, that there is very little chance that we're going to get the two sides together before the election," Conrad said. 

House Republicans, led by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-WI, have pressed ahead with passage of a 2013 budget, as required by law. But Conrad downplayed any urgency, emphasizing that, instead of a new budget, the U.S. Senate can defer to last year's Budget Control Act, which set spending caps for 2013 and the next ten years.

Conrad's pledge to produce an actual budget comes after the Senate Parliamentarian reportedly issued an opinion, saying that the last summer's debt deal does not stop the Senate from taking action. 

Politico reported last week that “Elizabeth MacDonough, whom Reid recommended for the job, has decided that last summer's deal on the debt ceiling and spending caps does not preclude the Senate from taking up other budget resolutions this year.”

Based on Senate precedent, if the Budget Committee has not produced a budget resolution by April 1, then any budget plan offered in the Senate is automatically put on the Senate calendar. If Conrad makes good on his pledge and marks up a budget, any senator could introduce the Democratic plan and put it on the calendar.

Speaking on the same show, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson rejected the notion that the Budget Control Act is sufficient as a budget blueprint.

"The Budget Control Act is ... about 24 numbers and it's simply not adequate at all," Johnson said.

"It's not a matter of timing,” Johnson emphasized. “It's a matter of will. And the fact of the matter is, there are no plans," Johnson said.


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